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The Vilas neighborhood evolved out of the Wingra Park and Oakland Heights Additions to Madison. The Wingra Park Addition was platted in 1889 and was the first of Madison's "suburbs" for people wishing to move away from the increasingly crowded isthmus.
The land was originally owned by William Fish, one of Madison's most successful building contractors. When he was unable to sell many of the lots to prospective homeowners he sold these remaining lots in 1893 to H.C. Adams, H.C. Thom and C.E. Bross who developed the properties. In 1897 the electric streetcar line was extended down Breese Terrace to Monroe Street, and these lots became more desirable because of easy access to public transportation.
In 1896 Edward Riley purchased land adjacent to the Wingra Park Addition and formed the Oakland Heights Addition. Both the lot size and building size in the Oakland Heights Addition were somewhat smaller than in the Wingra Park Addition, but local residents and outsiders considered both additions as one. These were annexed by the city in 1903 and the variety of architectural styles makes this region one of Madison's most interesting.
A consistent appeal of the Vilas Neighborhood has been the small-town atmosphere created by area businesses. Many of the businesses are within walking distance of most residents. It has been said that the life of the neighborhood is related to the businesses along Monroe and Park Streets. The neighborhood is bordered by Edgewood schools, the Vilas zoo, Randall Avenue, Regent Street, and Monroe Street.
Adapted from a History of the Vilas Neighborhood on the Vilas Neighborhood Association website.